02647 - Siege of Petersburg; Petersburg, Va., April 3, 1865 [LC-DIG-cwpb-02647]
In June of 1864 with the start of the Siege of Petersburg, you could say that the beginning of the end had started for the South. Lieutenant General Grant had been given command of all Union armies in March and from this point on, war would not stop. While commonly referred to as the Siege of Petersburg, it was in reality a nine month campaign of battles. It was also a forerunner to tactics that would be used during the First World War.
By this point it was apparent to both sides that the traditional lining of men in columns to march at the enemy was no longer sustainable. While many battles continued like this, Petersburg tried something different. The battle lines now became drawn, not just on a map, but in the ground. Trenches were dug and fifty years prior to the start of the WWI, the same tactics were first tried in Virginia.
As the battles continued ceaselessly for months the South was unable to sustain its losses. The North suffered far more casualties than the South, but it could absorb the loss, the South could not. Finally with the loss of Fort Stedman on March 25th, 1865 it was clear that Lee would not be able to continue. On April 1st the Confederates lost the Battle of Five Forks (both defenses of Petersburg). The next day the Union breakthrough came at Petersburg and at dawn on the 3rd, Petersburg surrendered. By nightfall Richmond was also in Union hands. Lee, taking what was left of his army, attempted to join forces with General Johnston in North Carolina. However, within a week it was all over and Lee had surrendered to Grant.